In May in Vienna there will be a unique event. It will bring together sixteen people who have been leading figures in the academic development of planning over the past decades – or fifteen and me to be more accurate! The Evolution of Planning Thought project seeks to collect an oral history of how ideas about planning have developed, and to do it before the Grim Reaper silences those who played leading roles. It’s international planning history through the eyes of those who created it.
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Like many planners I am a fan of the movies, and especially fascinated by films where place is central to the narrative. Over the weekend I was lucky enough to see not one, but two films about cities. They have a lot of similarities but also many differences. They are Fellini’s Roma and Terence Davies’ reflections on Liverpool, Of Time and the City. What do they tell us about today’s urban situation?
The newly published third report on The State of African Cities shows how informal development is a key force in the continent’s urbanisation, yet also poses major dilemmas. The report’s sub-title “Re-imagining sustainable urban transitions” suggests both the need to come up with new answers, but also the elusiveness of solutions. Anybody interested in Africa, sustainable development or planning should read it and ponder what can be done.
Metropolitan growth receives less attention than it deserves. The spread of metropolitan regions is one of the defining features of the age, yet as most of it is taking place in the developing world it goes largely unremarked by Western planners and urbanists. Of course, we have our own metropolitan regions that are deeply problematic in terms of governance and equity. However, the overcrowded commuter trains, chronic congestion, widening rich-poor gap and rampant housing shortages have become so commonplace that few commentators connect them into a narrative of metropolitanisation. Thus a new book, The Art of Shaping the Metropolis by the World Bank’s Senior Urban Planner is a welcome event.
The celebration of the centenary of the RTPI this year, and the centenary of the International Federation for Housing and Planning in 2013 are reminders of the origins of modern urban planning, and in particular of the historic links between planning and public health. A century on, the time is ripe to look at the links between health and place globally. The illnesses and premature mortality which the founding fathers of town planning sought to eradicate by better housing, more open space and access to community facilities still stalk the billion people who live in slums today.
How has the economic crisis impacted on migration patterns across Europe? This question is addressed in a new four-page ESPON Evidence Brief. The theme was also a central feature of the ESPON seminar in Vilnius on 4-5 December. Migration has been a priority concern of the Lithuanian EU Presidency. This is not surprising, given the scale on which this small country has been haemorrhaging people in recent years. It is estimated that a sixth of the population has been lost over the last 20 years. However, as we in the UK know, migration has become a hot political topic in many countries. For example there are concerns in countries around the Mediterranean about their “front line” position in relation to illegal immigration from Africa and the Middle East.
This second half of my World View Timeline for planning globally over the past century covers the period 1964-2013. The first part, 1914-1963, was covered in an earlier blog. It highlighted the ideas and practices that shaped 50 years of planning – from Patrick Geddes’ “Cities in Evolution” to Jane Jacobs’ “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”. Again I will choose one item from each decade that seems to signify what the period was about.
I am writing this while listening to other speakers in the World Town Planning Day Global Virtual Conference on “Water: the Fluid Challenge”. Water is of fundamental importance in planning, yet has received surprisingly little attention until recently. You won’t find it mentioned in any of the standard texts about Planning Theory. While waterfront development has been prominent for 30 years, there are many other aspects of water that a global view of the relation between water and planning would address.
The scale of the challenges that planners face from urban transport is made clear in the new UN-Habitat Global Report on Human Settlements. As ever more trips are made it becomes harder and harder to move around cities, even when money is invested in transport infrastructure. Across the globe, but especially in the rapidly urbanising mega cities of the global south, cities are facing a crisis of accessibility. Quite simply, unsustainable forms of urban transport are no longer working.
With the RTPI centenary coming up next year I have been helping them construct a timeline to tell the story of planning 1914-2014. Inevitably the focus is on the Institute itself and events in the UK. However, it set me wondering what a “World View” of planning over that 100 years might look like?
If you had to nominate just one event for each decade, what would it be? Here is my list. Do you agree with it? To keep the blog to a readable length I have confined this one to the period 1914-1963. In a couple of weeks I will do 1964-2013. In the meantime, I would welcome comments, counter-propositions and nominations for the period from the 1960s to the present.